Anyone who loves romantic movies knows the traditional marriage vows by heart, from “To have and to hold” through “Until death do us part.” These vows are so familiar to us that we hear them without truly taking in what is underneath the words: these are actual promises that spouses make to each other, lifetime promises that are the basis of a loving and healthy marriage.
Wouldn’t it be great if, alongside the traditional vows, couples included their own set of marriage promises? These words would be a true, personalized exchange of commitment, based on the values that the individual couple finds near and dear to their hearts. Here are some promises that would be wonderful to hear during a wedding ceremony:
The promise to continue to look at each other with love and admiration
It is easy for newlyweds to look into each other’s eyes and see someone worthy of never-ending love and admiration. Their intertwined lives are just at the starting block. Fast-forward several years, one or two children, job and money stresses, and the memory of those days filled with laughter, hope and conversations that went on until one o’clock in the morning seems like a lifetime ago. A promise to remember to interact from a place of love, and to keep in mind all that you admired about your spouse on the day you married is a marriage-enhancing tool that is good to keep handy for when the daily routine present in a long-term relationship threatens to chip away your loving base.
The promise to remember that love grows stronger when tested
All marriages will face tests as the years progress. Some of these tests will be relatively easy to manage: the division of household chores, where to go on vacation…These decisions will give you couple a chance to develop healthy communication and negotiation skills. But it is likely, over the course of your marriage that more serious tests will present themselves. Take illness, for example.
When serious illness raises its head, this is where love has a chance to show its power to soothe and heal. Standing by your spouse through illness, be it temporary or chronic, gives you both an opportunity to open your hearts to the amazing power that love has to ease pain and make the sufferer feel secure and safe. If you are the caregiver, you may have moments of great fatigue and sadness. Reach back and remember that what you are doing, as you take care of your spouse, is reinforcing the loving structure that will help keep both of you afloat through this dark passage.
The promise to not insist on being right
Couples are going to have fights, there’s no doubt about that. A sure way to stretch out an argument is to keep going at it because one of you feels the need to be right. This promise is about arguing in a solution-oriented way, as opposed to raising your voice over your partner’s in an effort to prove that you are right and your partner is wrong. Guess what? You aren’t going to win anything here, except for a continued feeling of animosity. A better way is to let go of having to be right, and using the discussion to listen to and acknowledge your partner’s point of view. Happily married couples will tell you that this promise is an important one to remember!
The promise to take each other as you are
“Men marry hoping their wife will not change. Women marry hoping their husband will change” is an old saying that you don’t want to subscribe to. When you marry, you marry the person your partner is now, not the person you hope he will become. What you see is what you will always get, so when you partner shows you who he is, believe him. And love him for it. Let go of expectations of who you want your partner to be, and embrace what you have in front of you.
The promise of fidelity
It is in the traditional vows, but it is something worth putting your own words to. You are marrying this person because you want them to be yours, in heart, body and mind. As you move through the stages of life together, it is likely that temptations will appear. It might be in the form of a co-worker, or someone you see at the gym. We’ve all known someone who cheated, or even left a marriage, because they perceived this new person as having something their spouse did not. But when you make a promise of fidelity, this grounds you. Should temptation to stray raise its head, come back to your promise and the reasons for it. Love. Honor. Cherish. These are important words to be used as guideposts during times when you might be perceiving the grass as being greener on the other side.
The promise to recognize that love is a verb
This is an important promise to keep in the forefront of your thoughts. Show your love not only in words, but in acts. It is easy to say “Of course I love you.” It is better to show how you love your partner. Throughout your married life, you will learn how to express your love through different actions. It may be bringing your spouse a hot cup of coffee when his energy is lagging. It may be planning a romantic dinner for just the two of you. Whatever the small, good things you like to do, remember to do these often. Yes, it is great to hear “I love you.” But it is equally important to offer these small gestures to each other as visible acts of love.